Nueces County officials have sued Ford Motor Company on behalf of all Texas counties and cities, citing growing concerns over the safety of Ford’s premier police cruiser – the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor.

A hearing has been set for 22 July in Nueces County Court on the County’s request that Ford immediately take steps to improve the cruiser’s safety, forcing the car maker to act before panels studying the issue make their recommendations.

At least 11 officers nationwide have been killed and seven seriously injured in accidents in which the petrol tanks in Ford’s police cars exploded after rear-end collisions.

The latest victim – Chandler, Arizona Police Officer Robert Nielsen, 25, – died on June 12, prompting Arizona officials and national consumer groups to urge a recall.

The class action lawsuit seeks to force the automaker to make immediate safety modifications to about 25,000 Crown Victoria police cruisers in Texas, at Ford’s expense, after notifying all law enforcement agencies of safety concerns.

How well do you really know your competitors?

Access the most comprehensive Company Profiles on the market, powered by GlobalData. Save hours of research. Gain competitive edge.

Company Profile – free sample

Thank you!

Your download email will arrive shortly

Not ready to buy yet? Download a free sample

We are confident about the unique quality of our Company Profiles. However, we want you to make the most beneficial decision for your business, so we offer a free sample that you can download by submitting the below form

By GlobalData
Visit our Privacy Policy for more information about our services, how we may use, process and share your personal data, including information of your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications. Our services are intended for corporate subscribers and you warrant that the email address submitted is your corporate email address.

At issue is the Crown Victoria’s fuel tank, which is located behind the rear axle and within the vehicle’s designated “crash zone.” High speed rear- end crashes push the fuel tank against portions of the rear axle or suspension system with enough force to rupture the tank, spill fuel and ignite the vehicle.

With its request for immediate relief, the suit is claimed to put Texas at centre stage in a growing outcry among law enforcement groups to halt the use and purchase of the Ford police cruiser until it is made safe in high-impact rear-end collisions.

Two weeks ago, Ford announced that it would appoint two task forces to study Crown Victoria safety issues and announce results in 60 to 90 days.

“Study is not enough. We need a commitment to fix the problem,” said David Perry, of the Corpus Christi law firm of Perry & Haas, attorney for the Plaintiffs.
Perry recently settled four police car fire cases against Ford, two of which involved officers who survived rear-end crashes, only to burn to death when their vehicles ignited.

“As a result of this class action, we believe that Ford no longer can ignore the cries of the widows and children of police officers killed in survivable collisions in which inadequately protected fuel tanks ruptured and exploded,” Perry added.

Joining in the announcement was Taylor, Texas, police officer Alan Neel, who barely escaped his burning cruiser on January 30, 2000, after it exploded into flames after being rear-ended by a drunk driver.

“It’s incredible to me that I survived — that I was not killed or horribly burned.  When I think about the other officers who have burned to death in these cars or who live today with terrible injuries, it makes me angry,” he said.

Ford already possesses the technology to make the Crown Victoria police interceptor safe, Perry said. He added that Ford already equips the fuel tank of its Mustang Cobra R specialty production vehicle with a special ‘bladder’ to keep it from rupturing in high-speed collisions.

Nueces County district attorney Laura Jimenez said county commissioners filed the suit because “a government body has a solemn obligation to provide for the safety of its employees while they are on the job.”

Law officers are considered to be at greater risk for high-speed rear-end collisions because of the amount of time they spend parked on the side of roadways, according to Nueces county sheriff Larry Oliveras.

“In many cases, there’s little or no shoulder to pull onto, and even if there is, that doesn’t protect them from reckless or drunk drivers ploughing into their cars.  The chances of their vehicles’ being hit from behind are much higher than they are for civilian drivers,” he said.

Civilian models of Ford’s ‘Panther’ line – the Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car – are engineered with the same defect as the police cruisers.  The police vehicles have no increased protection, although they are at increased risk for igniting after high-speed impact.

“The tendency of the auto industry is to keep settling lawsuits until it gets too expensive and then do something to correct a defect. Hopefully, this class action will speed things up, and we’ll get some action before anyone else is killed or maimed for life,” Perry said.

Ford, which controls 85% of the police car market, has estimated that some 400,000 Crown Victoria police cruisers are in use currently.  Law enforcement agencies have pressed Ford since 1999 for Crown Victoria safety improvements.

Last fall, Ford issued a Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) to dealers stating that, upon request, they were to make two minor modifications to Crown Victoria police interceptors to lessen the chance of fuel tank punctures. These modifications involve replacing the parking brake bolt and grinding off the tab stabiliser bar bracket. Ford did not notify law enforcement agencies of the recommendations, however.

Nueces County has started modifying its 110 vehicles to these recommendations.
Meanwhile, Perry said, all law enforcement agencies should take patrol cars to Ford dealerships and request that the TSB modifications be made, saving receipts pending the outcome of the class action.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NTSB) opened an investigation into the fatalities in November.

Meanwhile, just-auto US correspondent Bill Cawthon notes that June sales of Chevrolet’s Impala were up while Ford Crown Victoria sales slumped badly. It’s too soon for a connection to be drawn, he added.